Soca chief to be quizzed over hacking failings
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca) has been asked to clarify whether it failed to prevent corrupt private investigators from hacking the computer of a former British Army intelligence officer.
A powerful committee of MPs has written to Trevor Pearce, the agency’s director-general, seeking its response to suggestions that Soca investigators knew that criminal PIs were going to unlawfully access the computer of Ian Hurst – yet did nothing to stop them.
Keith Vaz MP, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, is concerned about Mr Hurst’s allegation that Soca knew his family’s computer was going to be hacked by private investigators in 2006 before the breach took place.
The former Army spy did not know his emails, photographs, banking and other online activities had been compromised until he was contacted by journalists from BBC’s Panorama programme in December 2010, almost five years later.
In a letter to Mr Pearce, published on the parliamentary website, Mr Vaz asked the Soca chief to explain why the organisation “allowed a Trojan to be applied to the computer of Mr Hurst and why Soca failed to warn him of the compromise at any time”. The former senior police officer replied: “This relates to an ongoing criminal investigation, therefore it would be inappropriate for Soca to comment on this.”
Mr Hurst said: “The answer Mr Pearce should have provided was ‘Mr Hurst is wrong. Soca did not allow the offenders to place a computer Trojan on his computer’. The reality is Mr Pearce cannot say that because he knows it is true – and I have the evidence.”
Mr Hurst has been a thorn in the side of Mr Pearce since The Independent revealed last month that Soca knew about widespread criminality in the world of PIs for years yet did next to nothing to disrupt the unlawful trade.
The former spy reported the Soca director-general to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) after Mr Pearce told MPs that “all” evidence of hacking obtained by his investigators had been passed to Scotland Yard around two years ago.
However, key hard drives that are understood to contain the blue-chip companies which hired corrupt PIs to further their commercial interests were first seized by his agency in 2009, two years earlier.
Commander Neil Basu, who is leading the Met’s investigations into private detectives, then contradicted Mr Pearce a week later. He said: “We wouldn’t necessarily possess all the information from that previous (Soca) investigation.”
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